“Clawback” by bestselling author J. A. Jance brings back the heroine Ali Reynolds. The story brings to mind issues revealed in the movie “The Big Short” and the news events surrounding Bernie Madoff. Where Jance is at her best is describing complicated issues and breaking them down into understandable terms within a gripping mystery.
In this latest, Ali Reynolds must solve the murder of someone caught up in a Ponzi scheme that bankrupted hundreds of people. Among those are her parents who lost their life retirement savings. Because her dad wants answers he decides to confront his long time friend and financial advisor, only to find he and his wife dead. In an effort to clear her father, seek justice for those who lost their savings, and find the hidden money she teams up with her husband B. Simpson, the executive of High Noon.
Jance said this story was highly personal. “My husband and I had our own Ponzi guy in Seattle. He relieved us of $500,000 of our retirement funds. That is why I put in the dedication, ‘For all the people who gave me 500,000 reasons for writing this book. Whoever you are; you know who you are.’ Because it was in a retirement account we could not even claim the loss on our taxes. We will never see any of that money again. It is sad to think that people who are in their 70’s, had retired, and planned on having this money for their golden years are all back at work. My advice, ‘If it sounds too good to be true it probably is.’”
Furthermore, Jance wants readers to understand that she and her husband did their due diligence. “We spoke with investment advisors from big management firms. We even checked the audits. What evidently happened is that whenever there was going to be an audit someone from that company would call and warn the Ponzi guy. This allowed him to move the money around and show everything was honkey dory.”
Although the story is very entertaining readers can also learn something. Clawback refers to a law that assesses penalties on victims of Ponzi schemes by having the bankruptcy courts confiscating previous distributions. The book quote explains, “So my parents get hit twice, first by the Ponzi scheme itself and then by the bankruptcy trustees-insult to injury.” Jance explains, “Proceeds from an investment that is found to be fraudulent are confiscated and then redistributed to all investors on a proportional basis. Since we had not started taking any funds out, Clawback did not affect us. But since none of the money has been found, the characters in my book had a happier ending than those who were schemed along with me. I wish I could have hired High Noon to trace the money since the government is not interested in helping find the money hidden by the bad guys.”
Jance also appears to be tech savvy. She talks of “presence technology,” in which employees and their families of High Noon have all their electronic devices equipped with the latest technology. Basically allowing the company to know where an individual is and follow their movements in real time.
One of the most interesting characters is Cami Lee, an employee of High Noon. Coming from a world of accomplished parents, she was an over achiever who was shy, a bookworm, highly technical, and an expert in martial arts. Jance commented that she based this character on “my two granddaughters who came from orphanages in China. Both are very talented gymnasts. Those girls are no bigger than a minute but are surprisingly strong as can be.”
“Clawback” is a must read for anyone who wants to understand a complicated issue that can possibly have a personal effect. With a rich cast of characters and a compelling story that is believable this is a must read.